Galloway and Collens, PLLC
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Detroit Metro Area Legal Blog

What happens if estate assets are missing?

During the probate process, the personal representative (which is sometimes referred to as the executor) will inventory the estate of the deceased. Occasionally, documents or assets that the personal representative knows about may be difficult to find. A missing asset may have been misplaced over time, but problems can arise if suspicions arise between family members concerning the whereabouts of large assets.

  • Did a family member take assets surreptitiously?
  • Did the personal representative mishandle estate assets?
  • Did a trust administrator misuse his or her power and breach a fiduciary duty?

Smoke-Free Provisions in Apartment Leases

Throughout Michigan, more and more owners of market-rate apartment buildings are choosing to make their properties smoke-free. This makes good business sense because: 

  • There is a preference by tenants for smoke-free facilities.
  • The rehab cost for a unit occupied by a non-smoker is much lower than the cost for a unit occupied by a smoker.
  •  About 9 percent of apartment fires are caused by smoking.
  • Allowing smoking in a multiunit residential building potentially puts the owner at risk for civil litigation by non-smokers under common law theories, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
  • Implementing a non-smoking policy can increase the re-sale value of a building.

It all sounds good, but for the owner of a multiunit residential building, several questions arise. How can the owner implement a non-smoking policy? What should the owner do regarding current tenants who smoke? What about a prospective tenant who is certified to use medical marijuana?

Stress-free real estate transactions are feasible with our help

Real estate properties are some of the most valuable assets owned by Michigan residents, making any action related to them especially significant. Real estate transactions can be some of the most precarious transactions if mishandled. With a great deal of money and emotional investment on the line, securing the best deal possible for our clients is our top priority.

Transactions concerning real estate properties entail much more than simply handing over a title in exchange for a check. The typical high value of most real estate properties itself means that few people can afford to pay cash, thus requiring the help of a lender in order to secure a viable loan. The paperwork involved with obtaining a loan can be tedious, and we build bridges that allow everyone involved to coordinate on the accuracy and necessity of related paperwork.

Real estate litigation needs the right guidance -- we can help

Issues involving buying and selling property in Michigan can be complex and even result in lawsuits. Real estate litigation can cover a wide range of disputes whose outcomes can be of profound importance. When it comes to addressing a serious dispute in real estate, going it alone is usually not advisable.

Opposing claims to property can be especially troubling for owners. These often arise after a person has passed away and left a property to a certain family member. However, improper transactions and unrecorded easements can also lead to this type of dispute. The vast majority of property owners hope for a quiet and cost effective solution to remove these opposing claims, and we have helped many of our Michigan clients accomplish this.

Landlord/tenant dispute: Carbon monoxide in home a risk

In any relationship between a landlord and a tenant, there are standards that must be met to ensure the health and welfare of the occupants of a rental property. Some Michigan landlords do not honor these protocols, putting the lives of tenants at risk. A recent landlord/tenant dispute involves allegations that a landlord failed to ensure the safety of her tenants.

The lives of a woman and her daughter were endangered due to a safety issue in the rental home. Reportedly, they went to bed around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and did not wake up until 3:30 p.m. the next day. It was discovered the pair had been subjected to high amounts of carbon monoxide due to a faulty furnace.

Include 'digital assets' in estate planning

In this digital age, our values have shifted to incorporate digital assets on a level similar to our personal belongings and assets. Accordingly, estate planning and its practices have changed to include these assets. Your digital footprint and memories are not only valuable to you but also your loved ones. We make great efforts to use, share and protect our online photos, files and data while we are alive, but what happens to them after we become incapacitated or die? Howard Collens helped to pass legislation in Michigan that provides guidance and allows you to address the handling of your digital assets within your estate plan. The Michigan Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act provides a method for you to grant authority to an agent under a power of attorney, a personal representative under a last will and testament, a trustee under a trust or a guardian or conservator through the probate court for access to social media, online accounts and email. You may also restrict access to digital assets through your estate plan. Galloway and Collens, PLLC is proud to have Howard Collens featured in a recent Lawyers Weekly article, "Include 'digital assets' in estate planning," addressing these concerns. If you would like to learn more on how to grant or restrict access to your digital assets, please follow the link below to read the Lawyers Weekly article.

Construction issues can plague residential real estate deals

Any real estate transaction can get instantly complicated, especially when new construction is involved. When new construction is under contract, residential real estate deals may hit snags that require legal support or intervention. Those in Michigan who are embarking on any kind of new construction project can be better prepared for the process and possible complications by being aware of what can go wrong and what to do about it before issues derail the project altogether.

Any new construction project requires a great attention to details, both regarding the actual construction and the regulations pertaining to the project. If any part of the project conflicts with municipal codes, the project may have to be paused or completely halted. Legal support can ensure code compliance and defense against claims of code violations.

Inheritances can get complicated for Michigan families

Creating an estate plan that works for every family is impossible because families vary greatly, and the needs of one will not fit the needs of all others. Because of family differences and varying dynamics, plans for inheritances can get infinitely complicated. Michigan families can explore their options for creating plans that take their unique circumstances into account to ensure members' specific inheritances are outlined and drafted as part of comprehensive estate plans.

One complication that is becoming more common is blended families. A parent may have separate property and assets that he or she wants left to his or her biological children, along with assets for a surviving spouse. In situations such as this, leaving an equal share to all children may not be feasible or be the desired outcome. This can be even more complex of a situation if parents have a child together and each has separate children. Tensions can easily arise between biological and step-children if specifics are not handled properly.

Trust administration can ensure funds are handled correctly

The transfer of wealth from one person to another, or one generation to another, can be a complicated and highly personal venture. If someone chooses to pass wealth through the use of a trust, the responsibility of trust administration is a challenging responsibility. Michigan beneficiaries and residents embarking on the process of trust creation can ensure proper trust administration by first realizing which kinds of trusts are available and may work best for their given situation.

When minor children are involved, a trust can be specifically created to care for their needs. If a child has special needs, medical or otherwise, a special needs trust can be created to take care of those concerns for years to come. This allows a parent to protect and provide for the children long after that parent is gone.

Michigan probate litigation can become complicated

After the loss of a loved one, few surviving family members have the energy to focus on legal issues or potential estate complications. However, lack of action or a misunderstanding of the probate process can result in probate litigation and other legal complications for grieving families. Michigan families can minimize conflict and head off any potential problems with professional assistance, a clear understanding of the types of probate and they may mean as far as the distribution of the decedent's assets is concerned.

In some cases in Michigan, a supervised probate will be appropriate. This will lead to a hearing before a judge. The hearing will address the assets of the estate and result in a determination regarding how assets will be distributed.

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